What is a Pilonidal Cyst?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A pilonidal cyst is an abscess that forms on the skin above the coccyx. Its exact causes are uncertain, but doctors and medical researchers believe that most pilonidal cysts arise when hair follicles become lodged in the sensitive area of skin due to friction or constant pressure. Some cysts remain small and painless, though they can potentially cause significant discomfort, swelling, redness, irritation, bleeding, and fluid discharge. A pilonidal cyst can affect anyone, though they are most frequently found on males between the ages of 15 and 25. Doctors usually treat cysts by puncturing them with needles to drain pus, prescribing antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications, or conducting surgery to remove hair follicles and infected tissue.

Cysts typically develop when hairs penetrate the skin just above the buttocks, leading to infection and a buildup of dead skin and dirt. Pus usually forms and oozes from the damaged skin. Most pilonidal cysts occur when the skin on the coccyx is subject to friction from tight clothing or pressure from sitting for long periods of time. Individuals that are most likely to develop cysts are young men who have a lot of body hair, poor hygiene, or weight problems. A person who leads an inactive lifestyle or has a job that requires constant sitting may also be at risk of developing a pilonidal cyst.


Most cysts result in a number of telling signs symptoms. The actual, pus-filled cyst can usually be seen, along with swelling and redness around the area. A developed pilonidal cyst might ooze pus and blood when the skin is broken through contact with clothes, a chair, or a bed. Cysts can often feel itchy, uncomfortable, or even painful to the point where walking and sitting become difficult. An individual who experiences a pilonidal cyst should contact his or her primary care physician who can determine the best option for treatment.

A doctor can relieve a patient's symptoms of swelling, redness, and irritation by prescribing oral or topical antibiotics and physically draining cysts. The physician usually cleans the area using soap and water, removes any visible skin debris and hair, numbs the skin, makes a small puncture in the abscess, and squeezes out fluid and excess blood. This procedure is usually enough to stop the cyst's development and promote a full recovery within one to two weeks. A very large, stubborn, or painful abscess may require a surgical procedure that involves cutting into the pilonidal cyst, completely cleaning it out, and dressing it with gauze and antibiotics. Patients are usually instructed to keep the area as clean as possible and free from body hair to prevent recurring cysts.


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Michael Lynch
Post 2

Keep the area clean and dry as much as possible. Don't apply pressure to the cyst and always keep the skin around the cyst as hair free as possible.

Hope that helps.

Post 1

What can I do about the horrible pain I'm experiencing from this cyst? What can a doctor do to help?

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